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Computer Sciences

International exposure

Researchers from Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute show their projects in the USA

Brazilian researchers with projects sponsored by the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute of Research in Information Technology presented the results of their research work at the External Research Symposium 2010, an event organized by Microsoft’s research department. The event was held in Redmond, USA, on April 6 and 7. “The participation of the Brazilian group contributed significantly to the success of the symposium, and attested to the size and quality of research work in computer sciences in São Paulo,” pointed out Jaime Puente, director of External Research – Latin America at Microsoft Research.

The institute is a joint initiative of FAPESP and Microsoft whose objective is to produce knowledge on information technology and applications having a social impact. Three bids for the submission of proposals had been announced, resulting in 11 projects, represented at Redmond in a poster session. The five projects approved during the institute’s first call in 2007 were presented at specific lectures held at the External Research Symposium 2010. The projects are as follows: “e-Farms: a two-way highway of small farms for a networked world”; “Butterfly project: integrated system of mobile computing for home health-care services”; “e-Citizenship: systems and methods for the establishment of a culture mediated by information and communication technologies”; “PorSimples: textual simplification of Portuguese for digital accessibility and inclusion”;  and “X-Gov: application of the cross-media concept to electronic public services.”

The “PorSimples” project, presented by professor Sandra Maria Aluísio and by researcher Caroline Gasperin, from the University of São Paulo’s Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences in São Carlos, developed tools to simplify the language of texts in Portuguese available on the Internet and to facilitate their understanding by children and adults learning how to read and write, and also by functional illiterates and people with cognitive problems. One of the tools, an on-line text editor, is used to help writers prepare simplified versions of their texts before they are published. The author runs his text through the program, which proposes a new version with less complex structures and words that are easier to understand by the majority of the readers. The other tool is a plug-in device installed in the browser; the plug-in device simplifies texts that are already available on the web – the challenge is to produce a new text that is coherent, because the author does not interfere with the end result. “The simplification technology behind both tools is the same and is being improved,” says 31-year old Caroline, who has a post-doctorate scholarship grant. Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, scientific director of FAPESP, participated in the symposium. He states that the participation of young researchers and students in international research events is very important for their professional advancement. “This involvement encourages them to continue developing research and shows students, early on, the importance of scientific cooperation with researchers from other countries,” he pointed out.

036-037_Microoft_171The symposium was attended by approximately 150 scientists from around the world. “The papers presented by researchers from all over the world focused on a variety of subjects, ranging from aspects related to the use of computer sciences in health care (eHealth) to issues related to the preservation and retrieval of knowledge stored on digital media,” said Claudia Bauzer Medeiros, a professor at the Computer Sciences Institute of the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), who also attended the symposium. “The new way of doing scientific research, supported by information technology, was one of the topics most focused on. Increasingly, scientists from all fields of knowledge need new ways to manage, analyze and visualize the data produced by their research work. The Brazilian researchers’ papers were in line with this new approach, which comprises a broad range of computer science methods and techniques – ranging from facilitators for digital inclusion to providers of subsidies for the progress of all fields of science,” emphasized the professor, who is a member of FAPESP’s computer sciences and engineering department.

Claudia presented the “e-Farms: a two-way highway of small farms for a networked world” project, approved at the time of the first call held by the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute. The e-Farms project, which focuses on issues related to joint research projects in computer and agrarian sciences, is being developed to meet two main objectives. “The first objective is the development of models, algorithms and computer tools to support harvest planning. The second objective is to create a low-cost data communication network for small rural properties to have access to the Internet and to communicate with other properties,” she said.

The symposium, which is held every year, provides researchers with the opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences and discuss future strategies with colleagues from other countries. Jacques Wainer, a professor at Unicamp’s Computer Sciences Institute, took a poster of his project to Redmond. The objective of the project, contemplated by the second call of the Microsoft Research-FAPESP Institute, is to develop an information system able to detect changes in fundoscopy images indicating diabetic retinopathy, a complication resulting from diabetes, which affects the blood flow and can lead to blindness. The professor says that he was impressed with the meetings he participated in, especially those based on the sharing of huge servers interconnected through the Internet for the collective use of memory and processing and storage capacities. “This concept has already spread throughout the business community, and Microsoft has been investing in its computer sciences applications,” says Wainer. “Right after the symposium, I asked one of my students to start working on this topic,” he adds.